[All links are to music on youtube and merely supplemental to the story]
Aldonza crossed her legs to sit at the feet of Old Man Whitewhiskers. She wasn't yet comfortable in this position, but her smile revealed some of her eagerness to hear the tale. She whispers to Kallixta next to her, who was looking for more relaxed in a kneeling pose, "It's like being a kid again."
Kallixta just returns a short quelling stare and said nothing.
"There is a long story of Zheng Tiamin and his Sunwise Journey with his faithful Skitterer Xi'a, but that is too long, too involved, to make a single evening's entertainment. All you need to know is that when the evil Chen Hui was defeated and cursed to serve the blessed Tiamin as his mount, Xi'a was rewarded and free to travel on his own."
Old Man Whitewhiskers had settled himself comfortably on his seat and stroked his chin, which surprisingly had few white whiskers, yet no one dared ask him about that. It appeared to be just one of those things that Pandaren accepted and understood and the other races seemed too embarrassed to ask.
"Tonight hear the tale of Tiamin's visit with the Gossiping Washerwomen. This took place in the quiet part of the Journey, when the monk and his mount followed a river through the wilds. It was not a difficult path to follow with but few waterfalls to negotiate and few creatures to give trouble. There was plenty of shade to make the day cool. There were some nice eddy pools that appealed to blessed Tiamin and he stopped to fish. As usual, he released Xi'a to explore.
The Skitterer never left the river on these small explorations. We would glide up small creeks or check the path ahead. So it was that while exploring thus, noble Xi'a overheard a pair of washerwomen performing their work. The pair, both young for this task which an observer as smart as Xi'a concluded meant they were unmarried, talked of people in the village. While not intending to eavesdrop, the chat could be followed easily enough before Xi'a decided he'd been away long enough and returned to Tiamin, just finishing his lunch.
During the cleanup that followed, Xi'a shared his observations, which included that the river's speed picked up a bit, the better to quickly carry soapy water away. Xi'a also shared the jealousy the washerwomen felt for the newly married wife that had been their friend, their surprise of the skill of the youngest hunter in the village that brought down two plainshawks this morning, and their annoyance over the increasing deafness of the village headwoman.
Immediately after continuing their journey, our hero was passing the small village and requested to stop and visit. There being no immediacy to pass by, Tiamin agreed with a smile. Many soon gathered near the center of the village and the blessed monk was introduced to many in the village, including the respected headwoman. Forewarned, Tiamin stood close and spoke clearly and respectfully. Not only was the headwoman pleased with his polite respect, but other elders who had no way of warning their visitor. Conversation quickly became enthusiastic and an invitation to an impromptu feast was made.
The dishes served were many, but a place of honor was given to a pair of large, glistening plainshawks with crispy golden crust. Timain worded his appreciation to praise the village for not only their hunting skill, but their teaching skill for passing knowledge to young hunters. The youngest hunter was glad the praise had not singled him out again for he had already felt some discord over his greater skill than many elders. The older hunters received the words and recognized that they could claim a measure of credit for they did in fact teach the youngster.
As the feasting concluded, different groups broke up to converse in smaller clusters, all of which wanted the visitor to join them. Tiamin's words to the village was, "Too much time spent with one group will mean neglect for old friends. Tonight I will spend time with each of you. Tomorrow I will spend time with my friend the Skitterer for we still have far to go together." These words struck the various groups as wise and each fell to talk among themselves of its wisdom. This included a pair of newlyweds who decided they had each neglected their old friends. Tonight they could visit apart for a while even as they returned to their shared bed later. Their friends were happy to renew their old friendships even as they recognized times must change.
Before Tiamin and Xi'a left in the morning, they were beseeched to impart words of wisdom. "Don't wash clothes in public. You are letting others see your dirty laundry."
Aldonza slowly returned from absorbsion in the story. Her first thoughts were her surprise at discovering that Kallixta and she weren't the only listeners. She looked to her side and found Kallixta was still distracted, wearing a puzzled expression. Old Whitewhiskers was chatting with two very young pandaren, shaking his head in refusal to tell more tonight. He looked at the final pair who had not climbed to their feet yet. "Was that what you wanted, young ladies?"
The dwarf paladin stood up first, responding politely, "That was what I asked for." The older pandaren chuckled at the correction. Kallixta offered her hand to the human in aid for getting up. "I didn't think the Skitterer Xi'a was a mount."
"Ah!" Old Whitewhiskers had the knack of sounded wise and understanding, perhaps using techniques such as Tiamin, "But he isn't any more. That's another story and I did mention it."
"You did," affirmed Kallixta, "but how big is the Skitterer and can he still walk on water while carrying a friend?"
The pandaren storyteller looked down at the youthful dwarf visitor to his village and answered, "Maybe because Tiamin was smaller than yourself. That was another story not told tonight. Ask sometime to hear the Tale of the Shortest Monk. And as the ancient Pandaren proverb says, 'There's plenty of water to walk on yet'. That's another proverb from the story of Tiamin and Xi'a!"